It's not always 'Buyer Beware!' Sellers need to be careful too

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DAYTON, NV (KOLO) -- Like many of us Paul Martinez has accumulated a lot of stuff in his life.

He has--he says--a couple of storage units and the garage at his Dayton home is full.

Much of what you see he bought or swapped for on line and may in the future unload there.

"I'm a bargain shopper," he says. "I love a good bargain."

So, recently he decided to sell an automotive tool--a borescope--he didn't need any more.

He'd paid $40 dollars for it at a pawn shop years ago. Looking to make a buck he listed it on the Let Go site for $100.

"You always go a little bit higher and work your way down, get as much as you can."

To his surprise. some one offered him even more--$140. The buyer wasn't local, but really wanted it. He'd send a cashier's check and arrange pick up of the tool later.

The check arrived by UPS overnight letter. It was for $950.47.

"Did he think about cashing it?"

"At first absolutely. I thought how'd I win the lotto? Then, I thought 'Wait a minute, I know what this is'."

But the red flags were waving. He called the sheriff's office. They advised he not cash the check.

So he ignored the printed directions that arrived with the check and called us.

"I just wanted it exposed. Somebody's got to do something. Hopefully they get caught."

There were actually a number of red flags.

The buyer's profile had been pulled from the Let Go website. The check was drawn on a Texas bank mailed from Tennessee with an Ohio return address. The phone number he was instructed to text was from Southern California.

Oh, and almost invisible unless you examined it very closely, the word VOID was printed across the check

But first and foremost, it was just too good to be true.

"He gets this check out of the blue for almost ten times what he was asking," notes Time Johnston of the Better Business Bureau. "So yes, it's that gut check. Is this too good to be true?"

Here's the scam: If he'd texted the buyer as instructed he'd have heard back that there'd been a mistake.

"Then they're going to ask you to send some of that money back," says Johnston. "Maybe keep a little extra for the hassle."

Later you'll get the bad news about the check.

"You don't want to be on the hook when the bank comes back and tells you the check was bogus and now you now owe several hundred dollars plus any overdraft fees."

"Watch yourself on the website," Martinez adds.."Be careful. If it seems too good to be true. If it sounds too good to be true, it absolutely is."

That's almost always true and the clearest red flag you should pay attention to.

Martinez called us because he wanted to warn others. He'd also like to see the scammers caught. Unfortunately that's unlikely to happen. These scams are difficult to trace and often the guilty parties are operating outside the country beyond the reach of law enforcement. All the more reason to be wary.